5 leadership mistakes you need to fix now

People tend to revere and look up to the most successful business leaders, and for good reason. More often than not, these are the maverick individuals who spotted an opportunity no one else did, seized it with both hands and started a venture that changed the world.

It’s often easy to admire these people as flawless beings – yet it’s essential to remember they are just as human as anyone else, and even the best leader is prone to the odd mistake. Take Steve Jobs, for example, who launched numerous failed products before eventually having the last laugh with some of history’s most revolutionary consumer goods, such as the iPod.

While not every mistake a business leader makes may be on such a grand scale, there are several errors that can crop up in the boardroom on a regular basis. You may not be able to completely iron them out, but knowing which common behaviours you can eliminate is a great place to start.

Modern leadership well below standard

Recent sentiments around the world say it all – employees today are not satisfied with how their leaders are performing.

An October 2014 survey by OfficeTeam, for instance, found that nearly one in five (17 per cent) of workers in the US believe their manager’s leadership skills are “not very strong” or “not strong at all”. Nearly a quarter (22 per cent) said they could do a better job than their boss.

Additionally, DDI’s Global Leadership Forecast 2014/2015 revealed that just a quarter (25 per cent) of HR professionals around the world rate their organisation’s leaders as high quality.

It is a similar situation in Australia. According to the February 2014 Australian Workplace Leadership Poll from the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Workplace Leadership, three-quarters of the country’s workforce feel their organisations “need better management and leadership”.

Clearly, modern leaders need to step up if they are to meet their employees’ and peers’ expectations and respect. Weeding out some common frustrating behaviours can be a good first step – so what are some typical leadership mistakes you should watch out for?

1. Not communicating

Good communication is essential in any facet of business, ensuring team members, stakeholders and other parties are on the same wavelength. As the person at the head of the group, it’s vital a leader exercises effective communication.

In fact, a study by The Ken Blanchard Companies found that 43 per cent of respondents believe communication/listening is the most critical leadership skill – making it the top-ranking competency. Accordingly, respondents rated inappropriate use of communication and listening (41 per cent) as the biggest mistake leaders make when working with others.

As a leader, it is essential you make good communication – whether you are conveying something to your team or taking on board feedback – a top priority.

2. Not recognising employees

Most humans, by nature, have an intrinsic need to be overtly recognised by their peers in order to feel valued and appreciated. And who better to give an employee a boost of confidence than their supervisor?

There are many ways you can recognise the efforts of your workers, for example through pay rises, bonuses and promotions. However, according to a recent LinkedIn study, it doesn’t even have to be that complex – even a few words can do the job.

The study found that in addition to raises, promotions and the like, “small victories at work”, such as getting a compliment from a boss, can give employees a feeling of success and fulfilment. More than a third (38 per cent) of respondents agreed with this statement.

So don’t skimp on the praise at work – even small words of appreciation can go a long way in helping your employees feel recognised and valued.

3. Not delegating

Most leaders hold a lot of pride in their work and status, and rightly so. However, it’s important not to let your ego hinder your management capabilities – and one of the biggest mistakes any leader can make is failing to delegate tasks.

Whether it’s because you’re not confident in your peers’ abilities or want to take on the job yourself, hoarding too many duties can have negative consequences. Not only will you feel overburdened and stressed, you may also lose the time and energy to focus on more important, bigger-picture tasks.

Whenever you take on an assignment, think carefully about whether there is anyone at your organisation who is qualified and who can share the load with you.

4. Not hiring well

Recruitment is never an easy task – but someone has to do it. As evidenced in numerous studies over the years, the consequences of poor recruiting practices can be enormous.

In a March 2014 study, CareerBuilder examined the effects that leaving a position unfilled for too long can have. Among the biggest impacts of extended job vacancies that employers cited were lowered morale due to heavier workloads (41 per cent), work not getting done (40 per cent) and declines in customer service (30 per cent).

Don’t let poor recruitment drag you and your business down – make sure your hiring strategies are optimised for efficiency and success.

5. Not focusing on learning

No matter where in the organisation an individual sits – from the production line to the boardroom – there are always opportunities for learning and development.

One of your duties as a leader is to facilitate continuous learning in the organisation, both for yourself and for your employees. According to a global survey by Right Management, just over one in 10 (13 per cent) of HR leaders around the world said they are confident “in the strength of their leadership pipelines to fill critical openings”. As such, nearly half (46 per cent) said leadership development is a top priority for 2014.

Making sure there is a constant supply of leadership talent to take over the reigns at your organisation is crucial – so make sure it has the measures in place to nurture leaders for tomorrow.

Nobody said leading an organisation is an easy job, and there are many challenges and mistakes even the best leaders can encounter. However, fixing a few of the basic errors that can be made can put you on the path to greater confidence and competence as a leader.